"The list of what I used to be is longer than the list of things I am." - Dessa "Mineshaft"
A few days ago, my lady and I were discussing our pasts and going round and round about decisions we had made. In our lives we've had romantic partners we would never touch knowing what we do now, jobs we would never work again, school experiences we wish we could do over, and hindsight. Lots and lots of hindsight.
Within that conversation I said a phrase that so many of us have said. "That feels like it was a lifetime ago."
And at that moment, I had a revelation.
Whenever people discuss living in different lifetimes ("my last life" or "next lifetime") I think they're being too literal. As a nonbeliever, it's hard for me to square waiting for another lifetime that I won't get to experience for opportunities to make changes. Even if such a thing were true, none of us are born knowing what's come before our births or after our deaths. However, we do remember our pasts, and those of us that make efforts to grow and change remember our younger days as memories and not really a part of our lives. Yes, it happened to us but it was 'a lifetime ago.'
Take for instance my bout with ulcerative colitis. I wasn't born with the condition, it came about when I was at the tail end of 26. I was diagnosed about 8 months after realizing something was wrong with me and lived with the condition for about 5 years before my colon was fully removed, taking the problem with it. I do have a permanent bathroom situation as a result of it but the larger part of the problem has been eliminated, so much so that I at times forget about it as if it didn't happen in my lifetime. Yes, I tell the stories about it, I do remember the pain it came with, and I KNOW it happened to me, but it honestly feels almost foreign. I once was talking to a friend about chronic pain and said I couldn't imagine how that felt, forgetting that I had a chronic issue for years! But in my mind, there was the life I had before colitis, during, and after that are distinct periods, almost feeling unrelated. If you're no longer holding on to those days and moving forward, they become lives you've lived, not the life you still live.
I've had lives as a child, a teenager, a young adult, as well as a life as a hotep in training (*shudders*), a life as a banker, my current life as a father, and so on. We've all also witnessed those who have had lives living in different areas, drug users who've gone clean, those who have picked up religion as well as those who have left it, along with the same for those in and out of abusive relationships. The main theme around those lives are the choices we make to no longer continue living those lives and move on to new ones. Many people will stick to the memories of their youth and try to relive them forever, keeping themselves in one life forever. Most of us can get stuck in a rut and not remember a time we WEREN'T living a life we weren't always involved in. And while I do understand that not all circumstances lend themselves to easily changing things to be different (such as the aforementioned chronic conditions as well as systemic issues surrounding poverty and racism) the vast majority of us still have choices to make in order to jump from life to life. That brings me to now.
This year for me feels like the prologue to another life I'll be living. Last year was like an entire lifetime in 366 days or more like a life deferred. We all made plans, collectively got stuck in limbo, and now we're doing what we can to move forward and not repeat what kept us in place. Nobody wants to relive 2020 and I've now gotten the opportunity to ensure that never happens again. So far I'm going on 5 months into this new set of adventures with a partner I can't believe I was lucky enough to find. This journey is as much about her as it is about me because, without her, I wouldn't be able to take it. On January 6th, 2021, I started a new life and didn't know it. I've made decisions I can't wait to write more in-depth about that are leading me in directions I'm excited to experience. I'll be 40 next year and this new lifetime has the promise I've been needing. But it took me disconnecting from the idea that I shouldn't do such things because of what has happened in my life already.
No. That was a lifetime ago. Multiple lifetimes in some instances. And while I retain those memories, nothing needs to stop me from trying to find a better lifetime for myself and my family. I no longer fear the unknown in the same ways I've had through other lives. This time I'm ready to dive in.
"Work it all out this lifetime." - Maxwell